Responsibility Is The Price Of Freedom Essay Ideas

TWENTY-YEARS AGO, Dwight Macdonald published a series of articles in Politics on the responsibility of peoples and, specifically, the responsibility of intellectuals. I read them as an undergraduate, in the years just after the war, and had occasion to read them again a few months ago. They seem to me to have lost none of their power or persuasiveness. Macdonald is concerned with the question of war guilt. He asks the question: To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: To what extent are the British or American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the Western democracies and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history. To an undergraduate in 1945-46—to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the “China Incident,” the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them—these questions had particular significance and poignancy.

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the “responsibility of people,” given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.

The issues that Macdonald raised are as pertinent today as they were twenty years ago. We can hardly avoid asking ourselves to what extent the American people bear responsibility for the savage American assault on a largely helpless rural population in Vietnam, still another atrocity in what Asians see as the “Vasco da Gama era” of world history. As for those of us who stood by in silence and apathy as this catastrophe slowly took shape over the past dozen years—on what page of history do we find our proper place? Only the most insensible can escape these questions. I want to return to them, later on, after a few scattered remarks about the responsibility of intellectuals and how, in practice, they go about meeting this responsibility in the mid-1960s.

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies. This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass over without comment. Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious. Thus we have Martin Heidegger writing, in a pro-Hitler declaration of 1933, that “truth is the revelation of that which makes a people certain, clear, and strong in its action and knowledge”; it is only this kind of “truth” that one has a responsibility to speak. Americans tend to be more forthright. When Arthur Schlesinger was asked by The New York Times in November, 1965, to explain the contradiction between his published account of the Bay of Pigs incident and the story he had given the press at the time of the attack, he simply remarked that he had lied; and a few days later, he went on to compliment the Times for also having suppressed information on the planned invasion, in “the national interest,” as this term was defined by the group of arrogant and deluded men of whom Schlesinger gives such a flattering portrait in his recent account of the Kennedy Administration. It is of no particular interest that one man is quite happy to lie in behalf of a cause which he knows to be unjust; but it is significant that such events provoke so little response in the intellectual community—for example, no one has said that there is something strange in the offer of a major chair in the humanities to a historian who feels it to be his duty to persuade the world that an American-sponsored invasion of a nearby country is nothing of the sort. And what of the incredible sequence of lies on the part of our government and its spokesmen concerning such matters as negotiations in Vietnam? The facts are known to all who care to know. The press, foreign and domestic, has presented documentation to refute each falsehood as it appears. But the power of the government’s propaganda apparatus is such that the citizen who does not undertake a research project on the subject can hardly hope to confront government pronouncements with fact.1

The deceit and distortion surrounding the American invasion of Vietnam is by now so familiar that it has lost its power to shock. It is therefore useful to recall that although new levels of cynicism are constantly being reached, their clear antecedents were accepted at home with quiet toleration. It is a useful exercise to compare Government statements at the time of the invasion of Guatemala in 1954 with Eisenhower’s admission—to be more accurate, his boast—a decade later that American planes were sent “to help the invaders” (New York Times, October 14, 1965). Nor is it only in moments of crisis that duplicity is considered perfectly in order. “New Frontiersmen,” for example, have scarcely distinguished themselves by a passionate concern for historical accuracy, even when they are not being called upon to provide a “propaganda cover” for ongoing actions. For example, Arthur Schlesinger (New York Times, February 6, 1966) describes the bombing of North Vietnam and the massive escalation of military commitment in early 1965 as based on a “perfectly rational argument”:

so long as the Vietcong thought they were going to win the war, they obviously would not be interested in any kind of negotiated settlement.

The date is important. Had this statement been made six months earlier, one could attribute it to ignorance. But this statement appeared after the UN, North Vietnamese, and Soviet initiatives had been front-page news for months. It was already public knowledge that these initiatives had preceeded the escalation of February 1965 and, in fact, continued for several weeks after the bombing began. Correspondents in Washington tried desperately to find some explanation for the startling deception that had been revealed. Chalmers Roberts, for example, wrote in the Boston Globe on November 19 with unconscious irony:

[late February, 1965] hardly seemed to Washington to be a propitious moment for negotiations [since] Mr. Johnson…had just ordered the first bombing of North Vietnam in an effort to bring Hanoi to a conference table where the bargaining chips on both sides would be more closely matched.

Coming at that moment, Schlesinger’s statement is less an example of deceit than of contempt—contempt for an audience that can be expected to tolerate such behavior with silence, if not approval.2

TO TURN TO SOMEONE closer to the actual formation and implementation of policy, consider some of the reflections of Walt Rostow, a man who, according to Schlesinger, brought a “spacious historical view” to the conduct of foreign affairs in the Kennedy administration.3 According to his analysis, the guerrilla warfare in Indo-China in 1946 was launched by Stalin,4 and Hanoi initiated the guerrilla war against South Vietnam in 1958 (The View from the Seventh Floor pp. 39 and 152). Similarly, the Communist planners probed the “free world spectrum of defense” in Northern Azerbaijan and Greece (where Stalin “supported substantial guerrilla warfare”—ibid., pp. 36 and 148), operating from plans carefully laid in 1945. And in Central Europe, the Soviet Union was not “prepared to accept a solution which would remove the dangerous tensions from Central Europe at the risk of even slowly staged corrosion of Communism in East Germany” (ibid., p. 156).

It is interesting to compare these observations with studies by scholars actually concerned with historical events. The remark about Stalin’s initiating the first Vietnamese war in 1946 does not even merit refutation. As to Hanoi’s purported initiative of 1958, the situation is more clouded. But even government sources5 concede that in 1959 Hanoi received the first direct reports of what Diem referred to6 as his own Algerian war and that only after this did they lay their plans to involve themselves in this struggle. In fact, in December, 1958, Hanoi made another of its many attempts—rebuffed once again by Saigon and the United States—to establish diplomatic and commercial relations with the Saigon government on the basis of the status quo.7 Rostow offers no evidence of Stalin’s support for the Greek guerrillas; in fact, though the historical record is far from clear, it seems that Stalin was by no means pleased with the adventurism of the Greek guerrillas, who, from his point of view, were upsetting the satisfactory post-war imperialist settlement.8

Rostow’s remarks about Germany are more interesting still. He does not see fit to mention, for example, the Russian notes of March-April, 1952, which proposed unification of Germany under internationally supervised elections, with withdrawal of all troops within a year, if there was a guarantee that a reunified Germany would not be permitted to join a Western military alliance.9 And he has also momentarily forgotten his own characterization of the strategy of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations: “to avoid any serious negotiation with the Soviet Union until the West could confront Moscow with German rearmament within an organized European framework, as a fait accompli10—to be sure, in defiance of the Potsdam agreements.

But most interesting of all is Rostow’s reference to Iran. The facts are that there was a Russian attempt to impose by force a pro-Soviet government in Northern Azerbaijan that would grant the Soviet Union access to Iranian oil. This was rebuffed by superior Anglo-American force in 1946, at which point the more powerful imperialism obtained full rights to Iranian oil for itself, with the installation of a pro-Western government. We recall what happened when, for a brief period in the early 1950s, the only Iranian government with something of a popular base experimented with the curious idea that Iranian oil should belong to the Iranians. What is interesting, however, is the description of Northern Azerbaijan as part of “the free world spectrum of defense.” It is pointless, by now, to comment on the debasement of the phrase “free world.” But by what law of nature does Iran, with its resources, fall within Western dominion? The bland assumption that it does is most revealing of deep-seated attitudes toward the conduct of foreign affairs.

IN ADDITION to this growing lack of concern for truth, we find, in recent published statements, a real or feigned naiveté about American actions that reaches startling proportions. For example, Arthur Schlesinger, according to the Times, February 6, 1966, characterized our Vietnamese policies of 1954 as “part of our general program of international goodwill.” Unless intended as irony, this remark shows either a colossal cynicism, or the inability, on a scale that defies measurement, to comprehend elementary phenomena of contemporary history. Similarly, what is one to make of the testimony of Thomas Schelling before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, January 27, 1965, in which he discusses two great dangers if all Asia “goes Communist”?11 First, this would exclude “the United States and what we call Western civilization from a large part of the world that is poor and colored and potentially hostile.” Second, “a country like the United States probably cannot maintain self-confidence if just about the greatest thing it ever attempted, namely to create the basis for decency and prosperity and democratic government in the underdeveloped world, had to be acknowledged as a failure or as an attempt that we wouldn’t try again.” It surpasses belief that a person with even a minimal acquaintance with the record of American foreign policy could produce such statements.

It surpasses belief, that is, unless we look at the matter from a more historical point of view, and place such statements in the context of the hypocritical moralism of the past; for example, of Woodrow Wilson, who was going to teach the Latin Americans the art of good government, and who wrote (1902) that it is “our peculiar duty” to teach colonial peoples “order and self-control…[and]…the drill and habit of law and obedience….” Or of the missionaries of the 1840s, who described the hideous and degrading opium wars as “the result of a great design of Providence to make the wickedness of men subserve his purposes of mercy toward China, in breaking through her wall of exclusion, and bringing the empire into more immediate contact with western and Christian nations.” Or, to approach the present, of A.A. Berle, who, in commenting on the Dominican intervention, has the impertinence to attribute the problems of the Caribbean countries to imperialism—Russian imperialism.12

AS A FINAL EXAMPLE of this failure of skepticism, consider the remarks of Henry Kissinger in his concluding remarks at the Harvard-Oxford television debate on America’s Vietnam policies. He observed, rather sadly, that what disturbs him most is that others question not our judgment, but our motives—a remarkable comment by a man whose professional concern is political analysis, that is, analysis of the actions of governments in terms of motives that are unexpressed in official propaganda and perhaps only dimly perceived by those whose acts they govern. No one would be disturbed by an analysis of the political behavior of the Russians, French, or Tanzanians questioning their motives and interpreting their actions by the long-range interests concealed behind their official rhetoric. But it is an article of faith that American motives are pure, and not subject to analysis (see note 1). Although it is nothing new in American intellectual history—or, for that matter, in the general history of imperialist apologia—this innocence becomes increasingly distasteful as the power it serves grows more dominant in world affairs, and more capable, therefore, of the unconstrained viciousness that the mass media present to us each day. We are hardly the first power in history to combine material interests, great technological capacity, and an utter disregard for the suffering and misery of the lower orders. The long tradition of naiveté and self-righteousness that disfigures our intellectual history, however, must serve as a warning to the third world, if such a warning is needed, as to how our protestations of sincerity and benign intent are to be interpreted.

The basic assumptions of the “New Frontiersmen” should be pondered carefully by those who look forward to the involvement of academic intellectuals in politics. For example, I have referred above to Arthur Schlesinger’s objections to the Bay of Pigs invasion, but the reference was imprecise. True, he felt that it was a “terrible idea,” but “not because the notion of sponsoring an exile attempt to overthrow Castro seemed intolerable in itself.” Such a reaction would be the merest sentimentality, unthinkable to a tough-minded realist. The difficulty, rather, was that it seemed unlikely that the deception could succeed. The operation, in his view, was ill-conceived but not otherwise objectionable.13 In a similar vein, Schlesinger quotes with approval Kennedy’s “realistic” assessment of the situation resulting from Trujillo’s assassination:

There are three possibilities in descending order of preference: a decent democratic regime, a continuation of the Trujillo regime or a Castro regime. We ought to aim at the first, but we really can’t renounce the second until we are sure that we can avoid the third [p. 769].

The reason why the third possibility is so intolerable is explained a few pages later (p. 774): “Communist success in Latin America would deal a much harder blow to the power and influence of the United States.” Of course, we can never really be sure of avoiding the third possibility; therefore, in practice, we will always settle for the second, as we are now doing in Brazil and Argentina, for example.14

Or consider Walt Rostow’s views on American policy in Asia.15 The basis on which we must build this policy is that “we are openly threatened and we feel menaced by Communist China.” To prove that we are menaced is of course unnecessary, and the matter receives no attention; it is enough that we feel menaced. Our policy must be based on our national heritage and our national interests. Our national heritage is briefly outlined in the following terms: “Throughout the nineteenth century, in good conscience Americans could devote themselves to the extension of both their principles and their power on this continent,” making use of “the somewhat elastic concept of the Monroe doctrine” and, of course, extending “the American interest to Alaska and the mid-Pacific islands…. Both our insistence on unconditional surrender and the idea of post-war occupation…represented the formulation of American security interests in Europe and Asia.” So much for our heritage. As to our interests, the matter is equally simple. Fundamental is our “profound interest that societies abroad develop and strengthen those elements in their respective cultures that elevate and protect the dignity of the individual against the state.” At the same time, we must counter the “ideological threat,” namely “the possibility that the Chinese Communists can prove to Asians by progress in China that Communist methods are better and faster than democratic methods.” Nothing is said about those people in Asian cultures to whom our “conception of the proper relation of the individual to the state” may not be the uniquely important value, people who might, for example, be concerned with preserving the “dignity of the individual” against concentrations of foreign or domestic capital, or against semi-feudal structures (such as Trujillo-type dictatorships) introduced or kept in power by American arms. All of this is flavored with allusions to “our religious and ethical value systems” and to our “diffuse and complex concepts” which are to the Asian mind “so much more difficult to grasp” than Marxist dogma, and are so “disturbing to some Asians” because of “their very lack of dogmatism.”

Such intellectual contributions as these suggest the need for a correction to De Gaulle’s remark, in his Memoirs, about the American “will to power, cloaking itself in idealism.” By now, this will to power is not so much cloaked in idealism as it is drowned in fatuity. And academic intellectuals have made their unique contribution to this sorry picture.

LET US, HOWEVER, RETURN to the war in Vietnam and the response that it has aroused among American intellectuals. A striking feature of the recent debate on Southeast Asian policy has been the distinction that is commonly drawn between “responsible criticism,” on the one hand, and “sentimental,” or “emotional,” or “hysterical” criticism, on the other. There is much to be learned from a careful study of the terms in which this distinction is drawn. The “hysterical critics” are to be identified, apparently, by their irrational refusal to accept one fundamental political axiom, namely that the United States has the right to extend its power and control without limit, insofar as is feasible. Responsible criticism does not challenge this assumption, but argues, rather, that we probably can’t “get away with it” at this particular time and place.

A distinction of this sort seems to be what Irving Kristol, for example, has in mind in his analysis of the protest over Vietnam policy (Encounter, August, 1965). He contrasts the responsible critics, such as Walter Lippmann, the Times, and Senator Fulbright, with the “teach-in movement.” “Unlike the university protesters,” he points out, “Mr. Lippmann engages in no presumptuous suppositions as to ‘what the Vietnamese people really want’—he obviously doesn’t much care—or in legalistic exegesis as to whether, or to what extent, there is ‘aggression’ or ‘revolution’ in South Vietnam. His is a realpolitik point of view; and he will apparently even contemplate the possibility of a nuclear war against China in extreme circumstances.” This is commendable, and contrasts favorably, for Kristol, with the talk of the “unreasonable, ideological types” in the teach-in movement, who often seem to be motivated by such absurdities as “simple, virtuous ‘anti-imperialism,’ “who deliver “harangues on ‘the power structure,’ ” and who even sometimes stoop so low as to read “articles and reports from the foreign press on the American presence in Vietnam.” Furthermore, these nasty types are often psychologists, mathematicians, chemists, or philosophers (just as, incidentally, those most vocal in protest in the Soviet Union are generally physicists, literary intellectuals, and others remote from the exercise of power), rather than people with Washington contacts, who, of course, realize that “had they a new, good idea about Vietnam, they would get a prompt and respectful hearing” in Washington.

I am not interested here in whether Kristol’s characterization of protest and dissent is accurate, but rather in the assumptions on which it rests. Is the purity of American motives a matter that is beyond discussion, or that is irrelevant to discussion? Should decisions be left to “experts” with Washington contacts—even if we assume that they command the necessary knowledge and principles to make the “best” decision, will they invariably do so? And, a logically prior question, is “expertise” applicable—that is, is there a body of theory and of relevant information, not in the public domain, that can be applied to the analysis of foreign policy or that demonstrates the correctness of present actions in some way that psychologists, mathematicians, chemists, and philosophers are incapable of comprehending? Although Kristol does not examine these questions directly, his attitude presupposes answers, answers which are wrong in all cases. American aggressiveness, however it may be masked in pious rhetoric, is a dominant force in world affairs and must be analyzed in terms of its causes and motives. There is no body of theory or significant body of relevant information, beyond the comprehension of the layman, which makes policy immune from criticism. To the extent that “expert knowledge” is applied to world affairs, it is surely appropriate—for a person of any integrity, quite necessary—to question its quality and the goals it serves. These facts seem too obvious to require extended discussion.

A CORRECTIVE to Kristol’s curious belief in the Administration’s openness to new thinking about Vietnam is provided by McGeorge Bundy in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs (January, 1967). As Bundy correctly observes, “on the main stage…the argument on Viet Nam turns on tactics, not fundamentals,” although, he adds, “there are wild men in the wings.” On stage center are, of course, the President (who in his recent trip to Asia had just “magisterially reaffirmed” our interest “in the progress of the people across the Pacific”) and his advisers, who deserve “the understanding support of those who want restraint.” It is these men who deserve the credit for the fact that “the bombing of the North has been the most accurate and the most restrained in modern warfare”—a solicitude which will be appreciated by the inhabitants, or former inhabitants of Nam Dinh and Phu Ly and Vinh. It is these men, too, who deserve the credit for what was reported by Malcolm Browne as long ago as May, 1965:

In the South, huge sectors of the nation have been declared “free bombing zones,” in which anything that moves is a legitimate target. Tens of thousands of tons of bombs, rockets, napalm and cannon fire are poured into these vast areas each week. If only by the laws of chance, bloodshed is believed to be heavy in these raids.

Fortunately for the developing countries, Bundy assures us, “American democracy has no taste for imperialism,” and “taken as a whole, the stock of American experience, understanding, sympathy and simple knowledge is now much the most impressive in the world.” It is true that “four-fifths of all the foreign investing in the world is now done by Americans” and that “the most admired plans and policies…are no better than their demonstrable relation to the American interest”—just as it is true, so we read in the same issue of Foreign Affairs, that the plans for armed action against Cuba were put into motion a few weeks after Mikoyan visited Havana, “invading what had so long been an almost exclusively American sphere of influence.” Unfortunately, such facts as these are often taken by unsophisticated Asian intellectuals as indicating a “taste for imperialism.” For example, a number of Indians have expressed their “near exasperation” at the fact that “we have done everything we can to attract foreign capital for fertilizer plants, but the American and the other Western private companies know we are over a barrel, so they demand stringent terms which we just cannot meet” (Christian Science Monitor, November 26), while “Washington…doggedly insists that deals be made in the private sector with private enterprise” (ibid., December 5).16 But this reaction, no doubt, simply reveals, once again, how the Asian mind fails to comprehend the “diffuse and complex concepts” of Western thought.

IT MAY BE USEFUL to study carefully the “new, good ideas about Vietnam” that are receiving a “prompt and respectful hearing” in Washington these days. The US Government Printing Office is an endless source of insight into the moral and intellectual level of this expert advice. In its publications one can read, for example, the testimony of Professor David N. Rowe, Director of Graduate Studies in International Relations at Yale University, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (see note 11). Professor Rowe proposes (p. 266) that the United States buy all surplus Canadian and Australian wheat, so that there will be mass starvation in China. These are his words:

Mind you, I am not talking about this as a weapon against the Chinese people. It will be. But that is only incidental. The weapon will be a weapon against the Government because the internal stability of that country cannot be sustained by an unfriendly Government in the face of general starvation.

Professor Rowe will have none of the sentimental moralism that might lead one to compare this suggestion with, say, the Ostpolitik of Hitler’s Germany.17 Nor does he fear the impact of such policies on other Asian nations, for example, Japan. He assures us, from his “very long acquaintance with Japanese questions,” that “the Japanese above all are people who respect power and determination.” Hence “they will not be so much alarmed by American policy in Vietnam that takes off from a position of power and intends to seek a solution based upon the imposition of our power upon local people that we are in opposition to.” What would disturb the Japanese is “a policy of indecision, a policy of refusal to face up to the problems [in China and Vietnam] and to meet our responsibilities there in a positive way,” such as the way just cited. A conviction that we were “unwilling to use the power that they know we have” might “alarm the Japanese people very intensely and shake the degree of their friendly relations with us.” In fact, a full use of American power would be particularly reassuring to the Japanese, because they have had a demonstration “of the tremendous power in action of the United States…because they have felt our power directly.” This is surely a prime example of the healthy, “realpolitik point of view” that Irving Kristol so much admires.

But, one may ask, why restrict ourselves to such indirect means as mass starvation? Why not bombing? No doubt this message is implicit in the remarks to the same committee of the Reverend R.J. de Jaegher, Regent of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Seton Hall University, who explains that like all people who have lived under Communism, the North Vietnamese “would be perfectly happy to be bombed to be free” (p. 345).

Of course, there must be those who support the Communists. But this is really a matter of small concern, as the Hon Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs from 1953-59, points out in his testimony before the same committee. He assures us that “The Peiping regime…represents something less than 3 per cent of the population” (p. 402).

Consider, then, how fortunate the Chinese Communist leaders are, compared to the leaders of the Vietcong, who, according to Arthur Goldberg (New York Times, February 6, 1966), represent about “one-half of one percent of the population of South Vietnam,” that is, about one-half the number of new Southern recruits for the Vietcong during 1965, if we can credit Pentagon statistics.18

In the face of such experts as these, the scientists and philosophers of whom Kristol speaks would clearly do well to continue to draw their circles in the sand.

HAVING SETTLED THE ISSUE of the political irrelevance of the protest movement, Kristol turns to the question of what motivates it—more generally, what has made students and junior faculty “go left,” as he sees it, amid general prosperity and under liberal, Welfare State administrations. This, he notes, “is a riddle to which no sociologist has as yet come up with an answer.” Since these young people are well-off, have good futures, etc., their protest must be irrational. It must be the result of boredom, of too much security, or something of this sort.

Other possibilities come to mind. It may be, for example, that as honest men the students and junior faculty are attempting to find out the truth for themselves rather than ceding the responsibility to “experts” or to government; and it may be that they react with indignation to what they discover. These possibilities Kristol does not reject. They are simply unthinkable, unworthy of consideration. More accurately, these possibilities are inexpressible; the categories in which they are formulated (honesty, indignation) simply do not exist for the tough-minded social scientist.

IN THIS IMPLICIT DISPARAGEMENT of traditional intellectual values, Kristol reflects attitudes that are fairly widespread in academic circles. I do not doubt that these attitudes are in part a consequence of the desperate attempt of the social and behavioral sciences to imitate the surface features of sciences that really have significant intellectual content. But they have other sources as well. Anyone can be a moral individual, concerned with human rights and problems; but only a college professor, a trained expert, can solve technical problems by “sophisticated” methods. Ergo, it is only problems of the latter sort that are important or real. Responsible, non-ideological experts will give advice on tactical questions; irresponsible, “ideological types” will “harangue” about principle and trouble themselves over moral issues and human rights, or over the traditional problems of man and society, concerning which “social and behavioral science” has nothing to offer beyond trivalities. Obviously, these emotional, ideological types are irrational, since, being well-off and having power in their grasp, they shouldn’t worry about such matters.

At times this pseudo-scientific posing reaches levels that are almost pathological. Consider the phenomenon of Herman Kahn, for example. Kahn has been both denounced as immoral and lauded for his courage. By people who should know better, his On Thermonuclear War has been described “without qualification…[as]…one of the great works of our time” (Stuart Hughes). The fact of the matter is that this is surely one of the emptiest works of our time, as can be seen by applying to it the intellectual standards of any existing discipline, by tracing some of its “well-documented conclusions” to the “objective studies” from which they derive, and by following the line of argument, where detectable. Kahn proposes no theories, no explanations, no factual assumptions that can be tested against their consequences, as do the sciences he is attempting to mimic. He simply suggests a terminology and provides a facade of rationality. When particular policy conclusions are drawn, they are supported only by ex cathedra remarks for which no support is even suggested (e.g., “The civil defense line probably should be drawn somewhere below $5 billion annually” to keep from provoking the Russians—why not $50 billion, or $5.00?). What is more, Kahn is quite aware of this vacuity; in his more judicious moments he claims only that “there is no reason to believe that relatively sophisticated models are more likely to be misleading than the simpler models and analogies frequently used as an aid to judgment.” For those whose humor tends towards the macabre, it is easy to play the game of “strategic thinking” à la Kahn, and to prove what one wishes. For example, one of Kahn’s basic assumptions is that

an all-out surprise attack in which all resources are devoted to counter-value targets would be so irrational that, barring an incredible lack of sophistication or actual insanity among Soviet decision makers, such an attack is highly unlikely.

A simple argument proves the opposite. Premise 1: American decision-makers think along the lines outlined by Herman Kahn. Premise 2: Kahn thinks it would be better for everyone to be red than for everyone to be dead. Premise 3: if the Americans were to respond to an all-out countervalue attack, then everyone would be dead. Conclusion: the Americans will not respond to an all-out countervalue attack, and therefore it should be launched without delay. Of course, one can carry the argument a step further. Fact: the Russians have not carried out an all-out countervalue attack. It follows that they are not rational. If they are not rational, there is no point in “strategic thinking.” Therefore,….

Of course this is all nonsense, but nonsense that differs from Kahn’s only in the respect that the argument is of slightly greater complexity than anything to be discovered in his work. What is remarkable is that serious people actually pay attention to these absurdities, no doubt because of the facade of tough-mindedness and pseudo-science.

IT IS A CURIOUS and depressing fact that the “anti-war movement” falls prey all too often to similar confusions. In the fall of 1965, for example, there was an International Conference on Alternative Perspectives on Vietnam, which circulated a pamphlet to potential participants stating its assumptions. The plan was to set up study groups in which three “types of intellectual tradition” will be represented: (1) area specialists; (2) “social theory, with special emphasis on theories of the international system, of social change and development, of conflict and conflict resolution, or of revolution”; (3) “the analysis of public policy in terms of basic human values, rooted in various theological, philosophical and humanist traditions.” The second intellectual tradition will provide “general propositions, derived from social theory and tested against historical, comparative, or experimental data”; the third “will provide the framework out of which fundamental value questions can be raised and in terms of which the moral implications of societal actions can be analyzed.” The hope was that “by approaching the questions [of Vietnam policy] from the moral perspectives of all great religions and philosophical systems, we may find solutions that are more consistent with fundamental human values than current American policy in Vietnam has turned out to be.”

In short, the experts on values (i.e., spokesmen for the great religions and philosophical systems) will provide fundamental insights on moral perspectives, and the experts on social theory will provide general empirically validated propositions and “general models of conflict.” From this interplay, new policies will emerge, presumably from application of the canons of scientific method. The only debatable issue, it seems to me, is whether it is more ridiculous to turn to experts in social theory for general well-confirmed propositions, or to the specialists in the great religions and philosophical systems for insights into fundamental human values.

There is much more that can be said about this topic, but, without continuing, I would simply like to emphasize that, as is no doubt obvious, the cult of the experts is both self-serving, for those who propound it, and fraudulent. Obviously, one must learn from social and behavioral science whatever one can; obviously, these fields should be pursued as seriously as possible. But it will be quite unfortunate, and highly dangerous, if they are not accepted and judged on their merits and according to their actual, not pretended, accomplishments. In particular, if there is a body of theory, well-tested and verified, that applies to the conduct of foreign affairs or the resolution of domestic or international conflict, its existence has been kept a well-guarded secret. In the case of Vietnam, if those who feel themselves to be experts have access to principles or information that would justify what the American government is doing in that unfortunate country, they have been singularly ineffective in making this fact known. To anyone who has any familiarity with the social and behavioral sciences (or the “policy sciences”), the claim that there are certain considerations and principles too deep for the outsider to comprehend is simply an absurdity, unworthy of comment.

WHEN WE CONSIDER the responsibility of intellectuals, our basic concern must be their role in the creation and analysis of ideology. And, in fact, Kristol’s contrast between the unreasonable ideological types and the responsible experts is formulated in terms that immediately bring to mind Daniel Bell’s interesting and influential “The End of Ideology,” an essay which is as important for what it leaves unsaid as for its actual content.19 Bell presents and discusses the Marxist analysis of ideology as a mask for class interest, quoting Marx’s well-known description of the belief of the bourgeoisie “that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions through which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided.” He then argues that the age of ideology is ended, supplanted, at least in the West, by a general agreement that each issue must be settled in its own terms, within the framework of a Welfare State in which, presumably, experts in the conduct of public affairs will have a prominent role. Bell is quite careful, however, to characterize the precise sense of “ideology” in which “ideologies are exhausted.” He is referring to ideology only as “the conversion of ideas into social levers,” to ideology as “a set of beliefs, infused with passion,…[which] …seeks to transform the whole of a way of life.” The crucial words are “transform” and “convert into social levers.” Intellectuals in the West, he argues, have lost interest in converting ideas into social levers for the radical transformation of society. Now that we have achieved the pluralistic society of the Welfare State, they see no further need for a radical transformation of society; we may tinker with our way of life here and there, but it would be wrong to try to modify it in any significant way. With this consensus of intellectuals, ideology is dead.

There are several striking facts about Bell’s essay. First, he does not point out the extent to which this consensus of the intellectuals is self-serving. He does not relate his observation that, by and large, intellectuals have lost interest in “transforming the whole of a way of life” to the fact that they play an increasingly prominent role in running the Welfare State; he does not relate their general satisfaction with the Welfare State to the fact that, as he observes elsewhere, “America has become an affluent society, offering place…and prestige…to the onetime radicals.” Secondly, he offers no serious argument to show that intellectuals are somehow “right” or “objectively justified” in reaching the consensus to which he alludes, with its rejection of the notion that society should be transformed. Indeed, although Bell is fairly sharp about the empty rhetoric of the “new left,” he seems to have a quite utopian faith that technical experts will be able to cope with the few problems that still remain; for example, the fact that labor is treated as a commodity, and the problems of “alienation.”

It seems fairly obvious that the classical problems are very much with us; one might plausibly argue that they have even been enhanced in severity and scale. For example, the classical paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty is now an ever-increasing problem on an international scale. Whereas one might conceive, at least in principle, of a solution within national boundaries, a sensible idea of transforming international society to cope with vast and perhaps increasing human misery is hardly likely to develop within the framework of the intellectual consensus that Bell describes.

THUS IT WOULD SEEM NATURAL to describe the consensus of Bell’s intellectuals in somewhat different terms from his. Using the terminology of the first part of his essay, we might say that the Welfare State technician finds justification for his special and prominent social status in his “science,” specifically, in the claim that social science can support a technology of social tinkering on a domestic or international scale. He then takes a further step, ascribing in a familiar way a universal validity to what is in fact a class interest: he argues that the special conditions on which his claim to power and authority are based are, in fact, the only general conditions by which modern society can be saved; that social tinkering within a Welfare State framework must replace the commitment to the “total ideologies” of the past, ideologies which were concerned with a transformation of society. Having found his position of power, having achieved security and affluence, he has no further need for ideologies that look to radical change. The scholar-expert replaces the “free-floating intellectual” who “felt that the wrong values were being honored, and rejected the society,” and who has now lost his political role (now, that is, that the right values are being honored).

Conceivably, it is correct that the technical experts who will (or hope to) manage the “industrial society” will be able to cope with the classical problems without a radical transformation of society. It is conceivably true that the bourgeoisie was right in regarding the special conditions of its emancipation as the only general conditions by which modern society would be saved. In either case, an argument is in order, and skepticism is justified when none appears.

Within the same framework of general utopianism, Bell goes on to pose the issue between Welfare State scholar-experts and third-world ideologists in a rather curious way. He points out, quite correctly, that there is no issue of Communism, the content of that doctrine having been “long forgotten by friends and foes alike.” Rather, he says,

the question is an older one: whether new societies can grow by building democratic institutions and allowing people to make choices—and sacrifices—voluntarily, or whether the new elites, heady with power, will impose totalitarian means to transform their societies.

THE QUESTION is an interesting one. It is odd, however, to see it referred to as “an older one.” Surely he cannot be suggesting that the West chose the democratic way—for example, that in England during the industrial revolution, the farmers voluntarily made the choice of leaving the land, giving up cottage industry, becoming an industrial proletariat, and voluntarily decided, within the framework of the existing democratic institutions, to make the sacrifices that are graphically described in the classic literature on nineteenth-century industrial society. One may debate the question whether authoritarian control is necessary to permit capital accumulation in the underdeveloped world, but the Western model of development is hardly one that we can point to with any pride. It is perhaps not surprising to find Walt Rostow referring to “the more humane processes [of industrialization] that Western values would suggest” (An American Policy in Asia). Those who have a serious concern for the problems that face backward countries, and for the role that advanced industrial societies might, in principle, play in development and modernization, must use somewhat more care in interpreting the significance of the Western experience.

Returning to the quite appropriate question, whether “new societies can grow by building democratic institutions” or only by totalitarian means, I think that honesty requires us to recognize that this question must be directed more to American intellectuals than to third-world ideologists. The backward countries have incredible, perhaps insurmountable problems, and few available options; the United States has a wide range of options, and has the economic and technological resources, though, evidently, neither the intellectual nor moral resources, to confront at least some of these problems. It is easy for an American intellectual to deliver homilies on the virtues of freedom and liberty, but if he is really concerned about, say, Chinese totalitarianism or the burdens imposed on the Chinese peasantry in forced industrialization, then he should face a task that is infinitely more important and challenging—the task of creating, in the United States, the intellectual and moral climate, as well as the social and economic conditions, that would permit this country to participate in modernization and development in a way commensurate with its material wealth and technical capacity. Large capital gifts to Cuba and China might not succeed in alleviating the authoritarianism and terror that tend to accompany early stages of capital accumulation, but they are far more likely to have this effect than lectures on democratic values. It is possible that even without “capitalist encirclement” in its various manifestations, the truly democratic elements in revolutionary movements—in some instances, soviets and collectives—might be undermined by an “elite” of bureaucrats and technical intelligentsia. But it is almost certain that capitalist encirclement itself, which all revolutionary movements now have to face, will guarantee this result. The lesson, for those who are concerned to strengthen the democratic, spontaneous, and popular elements in developing societies, is quite clear. Lectures on the two-party system, or even on the really substantial democratic values that have been in part realized in Western society, are a monstrous irrelevance, given the effort required to raise the level of culture in Western society to the point where it can provide a “social lever” for both economic development and the development of true democratic institutions in the third world—and, for that matter, at home.

A GOOD CASE CAN BE MADE for the conclusion that there is indeed something of a consensus among intellectuals who have already achieved power and affluence, or who sense that they can achieve them by “accepting society” as it is and promoting the values that are “being honored” in this society. It is also true that this consensus is most noticeable among the scholar-experts who are replacing the free-floating intellectuals of the past. In the university, these scholar-experts construct a “value-free technology” for the solution of technical problems that arise in contemporary society,20 taking a “responsible stance” towards these problems, in the sense noted earlier. This consensus among the responsible scholar-experts is the domestic analogue to that proposed, internationally, by those who justify the application of American power in Asia, whatever the human cost, on the grounds that it is necessary to contain the “expansion of China” (an “expansion” which is, to be sure, hypothetical for the time being)21—that is, to translate from State Department Newspeak, on the grounds that it is essential to reverse the Asian nationalist revolutions or, at least, to prevent them from spreading. The analogy becomes clear when we look carefully at the ways in which this proposal is formulated. With his usual lucidity, Churchill outlined the general position in a remark to his colleague of the moment, Joseph Stalin, at Teheran in 1943:

The government of the world must be entrusted to satisfied nations, who wished nothing more for themselves than what they had. If the world-government were in the hands of hungry nations there would always be danger. But none of us had any reason to seek for anything more…. Our power placed us above the rest. We were like the rich men dwelling at peace within their habitations.

For a translation of Churchill’s biblical rhetoric into the jargon of contemporary social science, one may turn to the testimony of Charles Wolf, Senior Economist of the Rand Corporation, at the Congressional Committee Hearings cited earlier:

I am dubious that China’s fears of encirclement are going to be abated, eased, relaxed in the long-term future. But I would hope that what we do in Southeast Asia would help to develop within the Chinese body politic more of a realism and willingness to live with this fear than to indulge it by support for liberation movements, which admittedly depend on a great deal more than external support…the operational question for American foreign policy is not whether that fear can be eliminated or substantially alleviated, but whether China can be faced with a structure of incentives, of penalties and rewards, of inducements that will make it willing to live with this fear.

The point is further clarified by Thomas Schelling: “There is growing experience, which the Chinese can profit from, that although the United States may be interested in encircling them, may be interested in defending nearby areas from them, it is, nevertheless, prepared to behave peaceably if they are.”

In short, we are prepared to live peaceably in our—to be sure, rather extensive—habitations. And, quite naturally, we are offended by the undignified noises from the servants’ quarters. If, let us say, a peasant-based revolutionary movement tries to achieve independence from foreign powers and the domestic structures they support, or if the Chinese irrationally refuse to respond properly to the schedule of reinforcement that we have prepared for them—if they object to being encircled by the benign and peace-loving “rich men” who control the territories on their borders as a natural right—then, evidently, we must respond to this belligerence with appropriate force.

IT IS THIS MENTALITY that explains the frankness with which the United States Government and its academic apologists defend the American refusal to permit a political settlement in Vietnam at a local level, a settlement based on the actual distribution of political forces. Even government experts freely admit that the NLF is the only “truly mass-based political party in South Vietnam”22 ; that the NLF had “made a conscious and massive effort to extend political participation, even if it was manipulated, on the local level so as to involve the people in a self-contained, self-supporting revolution” (p. 374); and that this effort had been so successful that no political groups, “with the possible exception of the Buddhists, thought themselves equal in size and power to risk entering into a coalition, fearing that if they did the whale would swallow the minnow” (p. 362). Moreover, they concede that until the introduction of overwhelming American force, the NLF had insisted that the struggle “should be fought out at the political level and that the use of massed military might was in itself illegitimate…. The battleground was to be the minds and loyalties of the rural Vietnamese, the weapons were to be ideas” (pp. 91-92; cf. also pp. 93, 99-108, 155f.); and, correspondingly, that until mid-1964, aid from Hanoi “was largely confined to two areas—doctrinal know-how and leadership personnel” (p. 321). Captured NLF documents contrast the enemy’s “military superiority” with their own “political superiority” (p. 106), thus fully confirming the analysis of American military spokesmen who define our problem as how, “with considerable armed force but little political power, [to] contain an adversary who has enormous political force but only modest military power.”23

Similarly, the most striking outcome of both the Honolulu conference in February and the Manila conference in October was the frank admission by high officials of the Saigon government that “they could not survive a ‘peaceful settlement’ that left the Vietcong political structure in place even if the Vietcong guerilla units were disbanded,” that “they are not able to compete politically with the Vietnamese Communists” (Charles Mohr, New York Times, February 11, 1966, italics mine). Thus, Mohr continues, the Vietnamese demand a “pacification program” which will have as “its core…the destruction of the clandestine Vietcong political structure and the creation of an iron-like system of government political control over the population.” And from Manila, the same correspondent, on October 23, quotes a high South Vietnamese official as saying that:

Frankly, we are not strong enough now to compete with the Communists on a purely political basis. They are organized and disciplined. The non-Communist nationalists are not—we do not have any large, well-organized political parties and we do not yet have unity. We cannot leave the Vietcong in existence.

Officials in Washington understand the situation very well. Thus Secretary Rusk has pointed out that “if the Vietcong come to the conference table as full partners they will, in a sense, have been victorious in the very aims that South Vietnam and the United States are pledged to prevent” (January 28, 1966). Max Frankel reported from Washington in the Times on February 18, 1966, that

Compromise has had no appeal here because the Administration concluded long ago that the non-Communist forces of South Vietnam could not long survive in a Saigon coalition with Communists. It is for that reason—and not because of an excessively rigid sense of protocol—that Washington has steadfastly refused to deal with the Vietcong or recognize them as an independent political force.

In short, we will—magnanimously—permit Vietcong representatives to attend negotiations only if they will agree to identify themselves as agents of a foreign power and thus forfeit the right to participate in a coalition government, a right which they have now been demanding for a half-dozen years. We well know that in any representative coalition, our chosen delegates could not last a day without the support of American arms. Therefore, we must increase American force and resist meaningful negotiations, until the day when a client government can exert both military and political control over its own population—a day which may never dawn, for as William Bundy has pointed out, we could never be sure of the security of a Southeast Asia “from which the Western presence was effectively withdrawn.” Thus if we were to “negotiate in the direction of solutions that are put under the label of neutralization,” this would amount to capitulation to the Communists.24 According to this reasoning, then, South Vietnam must remain, permanently, an American military base.

All of this is, of course, reasonable, so long as we accept the fundamental political axiom that the United States, with its traditional concern for the rights of the weak and downtrodden, and with its unique insight into the proper mode of development for backward countries, must have the courage and the persistence to impose its will by force until such time as other nations are prepared to accept these truths—or simply, to abandon hope.

IF IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of the intellectual to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective. Thus one must applaud the insistence of the Secretary of State on the importance of historical analogies, the Munich analogy, for example. As Munich showed, a powerful and aggressive nation with a fanatic belief in its manifest destiny will regard each victory, each extension of its power and authority, as a prelude to the next step. The matter was very well put by Adlai Stevenson, when he spoke of “the old, old route whereby expansive powers push at more and more doors, believing they will open until, at the ultimate door, resistance is unavoidable and major war breaks out.” Herein lies the danger of appeasement, as the Chinese tirelessly point out to the Soviet Union—which, they claim, is playing Chamberlain to our Hitler in Vietnam. Of course, the aggressiveness of liberal imperialism is not that of Nazi Germany, though the distinction may seem academic to a Vietnamese peasant who is being gassed or incinerated. We do not want to occupy Asia; we merely wish, to return to Mr. Wolf, “to help the Asian countries progress toward economic modernization, as relatively ‘open’ and stable societies, to which our access, as a country and as individual citizens, is free and comfortable.” The formulation is appropriate. Recent history shows that it makes little difference to us what form of government a country has so long as it remains an “open society,” in our peculiar sense of this term—that is, a society that remains open to American economic penetration or political control. If it is necessary to approach genocide in Vietnam to achieve this objective, than this is the price we must pay in defense of freedom and the rights of man.

In pursuing the aim of helping other countries to progress toward open societies, with no thought of territorial aggrandizement, we are breaking no new ground. In the Congressional Hearings that I cited earlier, Hans Morgenthau aptly describes our traditional policy towards China as one which favors “what you might call freedom of competition with regard to the exploitation of China” (op. cit., p. 128). In fact, few imperialist powers have had explicit territorial ambitions. Thus in 1784, the British Parliament announced: “To pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India are measures repugnant to the wish, honor, and policy of this nation.” Shortly after this, the conquest of India was in full swing. A century later, Britain announced its intentions in Egypt under the slogan “intervention, reform, withdrawal.” It is obvious which parts of this promise were fulfilled within the next half-century. In 1936, on the eve of hostilities in North China, the Japanese stated their Basic Principles of National Policy. These included the use of moderate and peaceful means to extend her strength, to promote social and economic development, to eradicate the menace of Communism, to correct the aggressive policies of the great powers, and to secure her position as the stabilizing power in East Asia. Even in 1937, the Japanese government had “no territorial designs upon China.” In short, we follow a well-trodden path.

It is useful to remember, incidentally, that the US was apparently quite willing, as late as 1939, to negotiate a commercial treaty with Japan and arrive at a modus vivendi if Japan would “change her attitude and practice towards our rights and interests in China,” as Secretary Hull put it. The bombing of Chungking and the rape of Nanking were unpleasant, it is true, but what was really important was our rights and interests in China, as the responsible, unhysterical men of the day saw quite clearly. It was the closing of the open door by Japan that led inevitably to the Pacific war, just as it is the closing of the open door by “Communist” China itself that may very well lead to the next, and no doubt last, Pacific war.

QUITE OFTEN, THE STATEMENTS of sincere and devoted technical experts give surprising insight into the intellectual attitudes that lie in the background of the latest savagery. Consider, for example, the following comment by the economist Richard Lindholm, in 1959, expressing his frustration over the failure of economic development in “free Vietnam”:

…the use of American aid is determined by how the Vietnamese use their incomes and their savings. The fact that a large portion of the Vietnamese imports financed with American aid are either consumer goods or raw materials used rather directly to meet consumer demands is an indication that the Vietnamese people desire these goods. for they have shown their desire by their willingness to use their piasters to purchase them.25

In short, the Vietnamese people desire Buicks and air-conditioners, rather than sugar refining equipment or road-building machinery, as they have shown by their behavior in a free market. And however much we may deplore their free choice, we must allow the people to have their way. Of course, there are also those two-legged beasts of burden that one stumbles on in the countryside, but as any graduate student of political science can explain, they are not part of a responsible modernizing elite, and therefore have only a superficial biological resemblance to the human race.

In no small measure, it is attitudes like this that lie behind the butchery in Vietnam, and we had better face up to them with candor, or we will find our government leading us towards a “final solution” in Vietnam, and in the many Vietnams that inevitably lie ahead.

Let me finally return to Dwight Macdonald and the responsibility of intellectuals. Macdonald quotes an interview with a death-camp paymaster who burst into tears when told that the Russians would hang him. “Why should they? What have I done?” he asked. Macdonald concludes: “Only those who are willing to resist authority themselves when it conflicts too intolerably with their personal moral code, only they have the right to condemn the death-camp paymaster.” The question, “What have I done?” is one that we may well ask ourselves, as we read each day of fresh atrocities in Vietnam—as we create, or mouth, or tolerate the deceptions that will be used to justify the next defense of freedom.

From Wikiquote

Jump to: navigation, search

Freedom is the state of being unimprisoned or unenslaved or uncoerced.

A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Lyrics · Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations · Respectfully Quoted · See also · External links

A[edit]

  • At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success. No obstacle has been so constant, or so difficult to overcome, as uncertainty and confusion touching the nature of true liberty. If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more; and its advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge, as much as in the improvement of laws.
  • The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.
  • When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.
    • John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817)
  • He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.
    • Variant: I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.
    • Aristotle, Quoted in Florilegium by Joannes Stobaeus
  • The price of freedom is to decide moral and political issues.

B[edit]

  • Freedom, like any other virtue, does not exist in a vacuum. It must be worked and practiced to exist at all. And like any other virtue, it imposes upon those who would have it the unpleasant tasks of discipline and sacrifice. A materialistic people do not learn these tasks by reading posters or listening to pep talks, any more than you can learn to play the violin by the same methods.
  • There are two kinds of freedom to be found in our world: the freedom of desires, and the freedom from desires. Our modern Western culture only recognizes the first of these, freedom of desires. It then worships such a freedom by enshrining it at the forefront of national constitutions and bills of human rights. One can say that the underlying creed of most Western democracies is to protect their people's freedom to realize their desires, as far as this is possible. It is remarkable that in such countries people do not feel very free. The second kind of freedom, freedom from desires, is celebrated only in some religious communities. It celebrates contentment, peace that is free from desires. It is remarkable that in such abstemious communities like my monastery, people feel free.
    • Ajahn Brahm, Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung (2005).
  • We thought (the United States) could lead us to freedom, but they led us into feardom, not freedom.
  • Ambulances always come with clouds of smoke. And then they disappear in a whistle. But what they bring is fear. Not freedom. Feardom is what they bring. And they bring fire and smoke. Oh, my nerves are bad tonight, yes, bad. I fear freedom. I, above all, fear the freedom that is above all feardom.
  • Freedom is not the possession of one race. We know with equal certainty that freedom is not the possession of one nation. This belief in the natural rights of man, this conviction that justice should reach wherever the sun passes, leads...
  • The prosperity, and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by the extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity — and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth. Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free.
  • The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation; the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism; the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be. This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.
  • Some question whether people in certain parts of the world actually desire freedom. This self-serving condescension has been disproved before our eyes. From the voting booths of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Liberia to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia to the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, we have seen people consistently make the courageous decision to demand their liberty. For all the suggestions to the contrary, the truth is that whenever or wherever people are given the choice, they choose freedom.
  • When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We are standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
  • For Freedom's battle once begun,
    Bequeath'd by bleeding sire to son,
    Though baffled oft is ever won.

C[edit]

  • Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.
  • Inner freedom demands the rejection of any imposition that injures our dignity.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Quotes we cherish. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 17
  • Secretthoughts are only half free: they fly undisturbed in the skies of the inner freedom, but they can never leave them.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani,2013, p. 19
  • I call that mind free, which jealously guards its intellectual rights and powers, which calls no man master, which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith, which opens itself to light whencesoever it may come, which receives new truth as an angel from heaven.
    I call that mind free, which sets no bounds to its love, which is not imprisoned in itself or in a sect, which recognises in all human beings the image of God and the rights of his children, which delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering wherever they are seen, which conquers pride, anger, and sloth, and offers itself up a willing victim to the cause of mankind.
  • ...Fatherland without freedom and merit is a large word with little meaning.
  • He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
    And all are slaves besides.

D[edit]

  • You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
  • For so long as but a hundred of us remain alive, we will in no way yield ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honour that we fight, but for Freedom, which no good man lays down but with his life.
  • Once a man has tasted freedom he will never be content to be a slave.
    • Walt Disney, Radio address "Our American Culture" broadcast during an intermission of the Metropolitan Opera. (1 March 1941)
  • Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

E[edit]

  • All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
    • Albert Einstein, "Moral Decay" (1937); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)
  • Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

F[edit]

  • The Age of Empty Freedom ... does not know that man must first through labour, industry, and art, learn how to know; but it has a certain fixed standard for all conceptions, and an established Common Sense of Mankind always ready and at hand, innate within itself and there present without trouble on its part;—and those conceptions and this Common Sense are to it the measure of the efficient and the real. It has this great advantage over the Age of Science, that it knows all things without having learned anything; and can pass judgment upon whatever comes before it at once and without hesitation,—without needing any preliminary evidence:—'That which I do not immediately comprehend by the conceptions which dwell within me, is nothing,'—says Empty Freedom.
    • Johann Gottlieb Fichte, The Characteristics of the Present Age (1806), as translated by William Smith (1847), p. 20
  • The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.
  • The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
  • Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances.
    • Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962), Ch. 1 "The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom"

G[edit]

  • [T]ruth is the ground and condition of freedom. Unless it is true that human beings deserve to have fundamental liberties respected and protected, the tyrant does no wrong in violating them. Relativism, skepticism, and subjectivism about truth provide no secure basis for freedom. We should honor civil liberties because the norms enjoining us to respect and protect them are valid, sound, in a word, true.
  • None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. (Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.)
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bk. II, Ch. 5; source: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Hamburger Ausgabe, Bd. 6 (Romane und Novellen I), dtv Verlag, München, 1982, p. 397 (II.5)

H[edit]

  • What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.
    • Learned Hand, in "The Spirit of Liberty" - a speech at "I Am an American Day" ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944)
  • We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible…Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.
  • I am certain that nothing has done so much to destroy the juridical safeguards of individual freedom as the striving after this mirage of social justice.
  • A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.
    • Friedrich Hayek, as quoted in The Market : Ethics, Knowledge, and Politics (1998) by John O'Neill, p. 68
  • Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad … Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom.
  • Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom.
  • The case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable and universal ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievement of our ends and welfare depend. It is because every individual knows so little and, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.
    Humiliating to human pride as it may be, we must recognize that the advance and even the preservation of civilization are dependent upon a maximum of opportunity for accidents to happen. These accidents occur in the combination of knowledge and attitudes, skills and habits, acquired by individual men and also when qualified men are confronted with the particular circumstances which they are equipped to deal with. Our necessary ignorance of so much means that we have to deal largely with probabilities and chances.
    Of course, it is true of social as of individual life that favorable accidents usually do not just happen. We must prepare for them.
  • You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
  • The significant point is that people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have-not" type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power.
    Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.
    To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.
    • Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront : A Journal: June 1958-May 1959 (1969), Journal entry (28 March 1959)
  • The ‘normal’ woman knows that, given freedom and equality before the law, she can be trusted to safeguard her own interests as wife, mother, daughter, or what you will.
    • Winifred Holtby, "Black Words for Women Only" (1934), in Paul Berry and Alan Bishop, Testament of a Generation: The Journalism of Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby, London : Virago, 1985. Also quoted in Patrick Deane, History in Our Hands : A Critical Anthology of Writings on Literature, Culture and Politics from the 1930s, Leicester University Press, 1998.
  • Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved.
    • Elbert Hubbard, in his essay on Booker T. Washington in Little Journeys For 1908, p. 21; Franklin D. Roosevelt later used this line on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved".

I[edit]

  • The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom, but has debased it economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe that India must sever the British connection and attain purna swarajya, or complete independence...We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to the rule that has caused this disaster to our country. We recognize, however, that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence.

J[edit]

  • If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
    • Jesus of Nazareth as quoted in John 8:31 (NIV)
    • Variant translation: Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
    • Jesus in John 8:31 (KJV)
  • I think that freedom means being able to do what you want without harming others... Freedom isn't something given by the government. I think it is a God-given right, and you are born with this right as a human being... I only had a vague understanding of what freedom meant when I was back in North Korea... When I thought about freedom or rights, I thought it was a concept that was given under the great leader. Everything was subordinate to the great leader of North Korea.
  • Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.
  • No one can flatter himself that he is immune to the spirit of his own epoch, or even that he possesses a full understanding of it. Irrespective of our conscious convictions, each one of us, without exception, being a particle of the general mass, is somewhere attached to, colored by, or even undermined by the spirit which goes through the mass. Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness.

K[edit]

  • How does the light of a star set out and plunge into black eternity in its immortal course? The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom.
  • Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. [...] And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news--for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security [...]. [...] And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
  • I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph — for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems — for conformity is the jailor of freedom, and the enemy of growth.
  • Our goal is not victory of might but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows. ~ R. H. Tawney
A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few. ~ Learned Hand
America represents herself as a Christian nation. ... They profess to be a friend and defenders of all peace-loving and freedom-loving people. The only people we really see that they want to be friends of are themselves and their kind. They are really sincere when they say that they are freedom-loving people. Above all, the White man the world over wants to be free to rule and dominate the aboriginal people. ~ Elijah Muhammad
Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. ~ Benjamin N. Cardozo
Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. ~ George W. Bush
Freedom is not the possession of one race. We know with equal certainty that freedom is not the possession of one nation. This belief in the natural rights of man, this conviction that justice should reach wherever the sun passes, leads... ~ George W. Bush
Freedom is a universal human desire... and a force for peace and prosperity in the world. ~ George W. Bush
We have seen people consistently make the courageous decision to demand their liberty. For all the suggestions to the contrary, the truth is that whenever or wherever people are given the choice, they choose freedom. ~ George W. Bush
The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both. ~ Milton Friedman
Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp. ~ Milton Friedman
Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad. ~ Friedrich Hayek
People unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. … Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. ~ Eric Hoffer
Progress of human civilization in the area of defining human freedom is not made from the top down. No king, no parliament, no government ever extended to the people more rights than the people insisted upon.~ Terence McKenna
The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace. ~ John F. Kennedy
The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free. ~ John F. Kennedy
Our liberty … is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. ~ John F. Kennedy
Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. ~ John F. Kennedy
Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way. ~ Coretta Scott King
The absence of freedom is the presence of death. Any nation or government that deprives an individual of freedom is in that moment committing an act of moral and spiritual murder. Any individual who is not concerned about his freedom commits an act of moral and spiritual suicide. ~ Martin Luther King
What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? … Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor. ~ Rosa Luxemburg
If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too. ~ W. Somerset Maugham
Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. ~ Rollo May
None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton
Good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need. ~ John Milton
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. ~ Thomas Paine
We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure. ~ Karl Popper
Man's right to know, to learn, to inquire, to make bona fide errors, to investigate human emotions must, by all means, be safe, if the word FREEDOM should ever be more than an empty political slogan. ~ Wilhelm Reich
Freedom is the very essence of life, the impelling force in all intellectual and social development, the creator of every new outlook for the future of mankind. ~ Rudolf Rocker
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. ~ Adlai Stevenson
We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it. ~ Boris Yeltsin
Stop singing and start swinging. You can't sing up on freedom, but you can swing up on some freedom. Cassius Clay can sing, but singing didn't help him to become the heavyweight champion of the world; swinging helped him become the heavyweight champion. ~ Malcolm X
People are fed up with the dillydallying, pussyfooting, compromising approach that we've been using toward getting our freedom. We want freedom now, but we're not going to get it saying 'We Shall Overcome'. We've got to fight until we overcome. ~ Malcolm X
You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get your freedom; then you'll get it. It's the only way you'll get it. ~ Malcolm X
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it. ~ Malcolm X
You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. ~ Malcolm X

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *